Review: “The Gender Game” by Bella Forrest

Review: “The Gender Game” by Bella Forrest

A review by Vanessa.

I purchased this book from Amazon after an advertisement linked me to it and the synopsis seemed interesting.

In a world where your gender rules your fate, Violet Bates is happy being a woman born in Matrus, where the females rule the government. Violet doesn’t know what exactly caused the great war that brought such destruction upon them, but everyone knows why the surviving populace living in the only fertile mountainous area left, split into two different ruling factions. Men had proven to be monstrous, and violent, and had already brought about the eradication of their previous way of life. Women thought it was time for females to lead. The men disagreed, and the majority of the women left, with those men who agreed, to form a separate government in the flat lands beyond the toxic river. Peace reigns in Matrus; power and masculinity reigns in Patrus.

Even though 19-year-old Violet committed a crime that put her in jail until her upcoming 21st birthday, she was better off than in Patrus where women were no more than property. Still, when her brother was marked at an early age as unfit to reside in Matrus, she loved him too much to see him condemned and tried to smuggle him across the river. She failed, and he was taken away. Now all she wants is to get through the rest of her sentence without trouble. But fate has other plans when Violet’s scuffle with another prisoner ends in womanslaughter. The Queen has made Violet an offer: help with a secret mission to recover something that was stolen, or face death as punishment. The mission comes with a heavy price. Namely, marriage to the Queen’s spy in Patrus. If she succeeds, she might just get the chance to see her brother again. But first she must survive having no rights, and no bodily autonomy. Still, it’s not all bad. Violet has always loved the thrill of physical combat, which is outlawed in Matrus. But in Patrus she is drawn to a lean handsome fighter who serves as a warden for the government her new scientist husband works for. Things just aren’t what they seemed to her before, and she finds herself torn between her mission and her heart.

The classic futuristic dystopian genre gets an interesting twist in this book. Focusing on the gender dichotomy as the source of the main conflict is an all too familiarly painful, and eerily possible, future. The turns the story takes are expertly executed, and will definitely keep the reader engaged. Violet, the main character, is a highly relatable lead to the story. Her personal journey is particularly captivating, as she discovers more about the world outside of her own experience. A rather large flaw in the world building, however, is the complete lack of acknowledgment of what happens to those who would be transgendered, non-gendered, or outside of the societal expectations for sexual orientation. Considering that this world is supposed to be the future fate of our own world, it is insanely disappointing that such a large part of humanity is simply not addressed. I have to hope that the great potential for what could have been a fascinating conflict within this world will be covered in future books. That being said, it has been a very long time since a book has actually kept me up all night to finish it. And though the prose could be just a little bit stiff at times, it flowed just right in all the places that mattered the most; the first moments of Violet’s real self-discovery, the height of the romantic tension, and the shocking twist of the story’s climax. I will definitely continue on in this series.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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Review: “The Butterfly Project” by Emma Scott

Review- The Butterfly Project by Emma Scott

A review by Amanda.

Zelda Rossi is a mess. She has come to New York to meet with publishers about her graphic novel, Mother May I, but things are not going the way she had hoped. She is at her wit’s end when she stops in at Giovanni’s Italian restaurant for a last minute dinner. There, she meets Beckett Copeland, a busboy at the restaurant, who might be as much of a mess as she is. He also might be able to help her where no one else can. Both Zelda and Beckett have tragedies in their pasts. Zelda is trying to run from hers, while Beckett punishes himself, but perhaps they can help each other find some normalcy.

This is a story with an abundance of heart. Zelda is a talented artist who uses her art to heal. She has a prickly exterior that keeps everyone at a distance, but it hides a generous spirit and loving heart. She does her best to push past the fear and guilt that she’s lived with for ten years, not realizing that all she’s actually doing is making things worse. Beckett also lives with guilt and anguish over a tragic mistake, which he believes can never be forgiven. He works hard and looks out for his friends, avoiding any deeper connections. These two souls are drawn together in a serendipitous moment that could change both if their lives if they’ll let it.

The characters are well-rounded, fully developed people, including supporting characters. They have faults and virtues, they make mistakes, they freak out. The plot is well paced throughout and relies on the strength of the characters to keep readers interested, rather than fast-paced action or surprise twists. There are examples of Zelda’s art sprinkled here and there, and it adds another dimension to the story. This is a contemporary NA romance, with some salty language and steamy sex scenes. There is also some talk of drug use and criminal activity, light descriptions of traumatic events, and realistic depictions of panic attacks.

The author has several other books, which I will definitely be checking out, including the Full Tilt duet.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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Review of “The Truth About Happily Ever After” by Karole Cozzo

Review of The Truth About Happily Ever After by Karole Cozzo

A review by Amanda.

Alyssa is a walking, talking stereotype. Tall, blonde, and gorgeous, the twenty year old sorority sister spends her summers working as a princess character for a popular theme park (think Disney); and not just any princess, but the most admired and beloved – Cinderella​. Alyssa loves her seasonal job. She thinks of it more as a calling; she lives and breathes princess life. The friends that she’s made while working at the park, and the smiles on children’s’ faces, make the rigorous physical standards worth it. Princesses must meet certain aesthetic requirements and have appointments (called look-overs) every two weeks to make sure they are at an appropriate weight and have a clear complexion, among other things. Alyssa holds herself to the highest standards in both her looks and her mannerisms, even when she’s off-duty. To cap it all off she’s found her fairy tale romance with Jake, a park medic, including the sweetest storybook meet cute the previous summer. They’ve struggled to make things work long-distance, and Alyssa is giddy to have the entire summer together. Only, things do not exactly go as planned, and Alyssa’s perfect princess life might be turned upside down.

This story is light and fun, with very few surprises thrown in. It is definitely a quick read. The conflicts that arise are predictable, but Alyssa’s growth throughout the book makes it worth reading. Alyssa starts out appearing sweet but shallow. As her story progresses, readers get to know her on a deeper level. She isn’t as shallow as she appears, and her kindness is generally sincere. She tends to ignore things that might stress her out, pretending that problems don’t exist until they blow up in her face. The first half of the story might be a struggle, as Alyssa is annoyingly upbeat (and that’s coming from a bubbly optimist). As readers learn more about her family history and what draws her to the princess life, they might sympathize. And as she grows as a person and figures out what she really wants, the story balances out quite nicely.

This is a contemporary YA romance with some swearing and some very light sexual talk/activity.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR PROMO: “Domme Experience: Power Exchange and the Making of a Dominatrix (Experiences Book 8)” by Simone Freier

BOOK TOUR PROMO:

Excerpt:

I finished going through my e-mail and was turning off the computer when Kelly came down to my office in the playroom. We were planning to go out to the French restaurant tonight, and it looked like Kelly was ready: She wore an emerald color sweater that contrasted nicely with her auburn hair.

“We have a slight change in plans,” Kelly bounced into the room and plopped down on one of the chairs in front of the desk. I awaited the details.

“I spoke to Linda, and it turns out that she and Matt were also planning on going to the French restaurant, tonight. So we decided to make it a Valentine double date.”

That was a surprise, but a nice one. I came around the desk, pulled Kelly up, and kissed her passionately. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

She smiled and waved her hand. “We don’t have to celebrate every holiday, and certainly not commercial ones. As far as I’m concerned, every day is ‘Valentine’s Day’.” I nodded, and kissed her again. Then, I went upstairs to get dressed for dinner.

We met Linda at the restaurant, and she introduced us to Matt. He was handsome and stylishly dressed. Linda told us that he had both legal and accounting degrees, and worked for a law firm in town, specializing in tax structuring – exactly what we needed!

Throughout the dinner, I kept thinking of questions to ask, and Kelly kicked me under the table each time I turned the conversation back to business. My shin was starting to hurt. Finally, Linda suggested that they come over for a while tonight. “Kelly and I can go in the sauna, while you and Matt work on business.”

It didn’t have to be binary – one or the other; I just wanted to give Matt an introduction, and find out whether he would be interested and able to help us. We could easily do that in the sauna.

Linda and Matt followed us back to the house, and we went down to the playroom, where I offered everyone after dinner drinks. Kelly decided to make coffee, and I took out the bottle of Kahlua, in case anyone wanted Mexican coffee.

We sat around the coffee table, and I couldn’t help but remember some of the experiences Kelly, her friends, and I had had here. As Linda’s eyes scanned the room, there was the hint of a smile that betrayed her thoughts of our past experiences, also.

Linda turned to Matt, “Sam is quite the techie. He has a huge video screen, computer-controlled lighting, and multi-channel surround sound.” Fortunately, she didn’t mention the video cameras or the ‘gadgets’ that I built.

I asked Matt, “Has Linda told you about our company, KS Biotech?”

Matt nodded, “Basically, although I don’t really understand the technology. Are you going to sell the hardware? Or license other companies? Or, develop drugs yourselves?”

I answered, “We’ve considered all those options, but it turns out that a Japanese company is interested in acquiring us. And we’ve already negotiated letters of intent with three mid-sized pharma companies to license the technology to them for their specific markets.

“It’s all based on Kelly’s technology, which could revolutionize the drug development process, especially targeting diseases which are ‘vector-borne’ – carried by or caused by other organisms.” Matt nodded, thoughtfully.

I got to the key point. “So we’re pretty close to getting paid a lot of money, and our main challenge now is minimizing the tax impact.”

Matt smiled, “That’s my specialty.”

Now, I smiled, “Yes, I’d heard that. So maybe we could hire you to help out?”

Matt shrugged, “It would have to be through the law firm that I work for. We’d probably want to have an upside in addition to our basic fee. How much money are we talking about?”

I shook my head, “As it stands now, if we can close at the valuation the Japanese have offered, it would be roughly one point three billion dollars.”

Matt choked on his coffee and sat forward on the edge of the couch, “Did you say billion dollars?” I nodded and smiled. He turned to Linda, whose mouth was hanging open.

At that point, Kelly walked in, wearing her ‘Superwoman’ robe, and sat on the loveseat, her legs folded under her. “Did I miss anything?”

Linda put her coffee down and turned to Kelly. “Are you guys really saying that you might sell the company for more than a billion dollars?” Kelly and I nodded slowly. We could see Linda trying to catch her breath.

“And I have half a percent of the company?”

Matt swung his head to her, “So you might be worth six million dollars.” He raised his brows, “Less the taxes you’ll have to pay. If it’s capital gains, you might have to pay more than a million dollars in taxes.” Linda was shaking her head in disbelief.

I summarized, “So that’s the problem. We need some good advice on how to best structure the deal.”

Kelly chimed in, “I can’t even imagine having to pay two hundred million dollars in taxes!”

Matt smiled, “Let’s meet next week. I’ll present the opportunity to the partners. I think they’ll be very interested in working with you.”

Kelly finished her coffee, “Can we please go in the sauna, now? It’s Valentine’s Day, and this discussion isn’t very romantic.”

As we got up and headed to the sauna, Linda quipped, “Well, Kelly, I think learning that I may get five million dollars is pretty romantic.”

We knew she was kidding, but there was something to it. You couldn’t equate money with happiness, but an unexpected windfall was always nice, and could be a turn-on.

About The Author

DOMME EXPERIENCE is an intimate exploration of kinks and fetishes by an unlikely couple, with thoughtful and philosophical discussion by the characters, and graphic descriptions of their erotic adventures.
Kelly takes the upper hand – in a manner of speaking – exhibiting her dominant side, and impressing her parents and Sam, as roles are reversed. Her formal training as a dominatrix leads to new and unexpected experiences for Sam. Kelly and Sam explore new cultures, and enjoy further adventures with friends, as their world travels continue. Kelly demonstrates her technical and business prowess, and the company that she and Sam founded takes off, changing their lives forever. There are a billion reasons why they should be happy. But they are unaware that a storm is brewing on the horizon.
The Experiences series is an epic love story of erotic relationships and sexual desires. Written in a ‘literary realism’ style, the series introduces Sam in the prequel, and the blossoming of his intimate relationship with Kelly as the series progresses. Fantasies and real-world adventures coalesce to mold a unique bond between unlikely lovers. Where needs are mutually satisfied in an open, creative and trusting environment. Where physical and mental boundaries are pushed. Where the concepts of love and sex are never confused, but sometimes confusing. Where openness is required and intimacy is expected. And where fair-is-fair, regarding the punishment of transgressions.
Contemporary erotic romance: Suitable for mature readers, aged 18+ years. Experiences: Book 8 is 187,000 words, 18 chapters, 621 print pages
Acclaim for Simone Freier and the EXPERIENCES series: “Fun, intense, sexually erotic” “One of my favorite series in recent memory” “Simone Freier is a sexually charged and inspired writer” “It is quite a tale and a very good read that explores an intimate topic” “The writing is well-done, engaging, and erotic” “The characters are rich & believable, while the eroticism is thick & lush” “Freier writes some incredibly powerful scenes” “I have enjoyed this whole series and don’t want it to end” “Freier holds poignant insight into the complexities of interpersonal communications and behavior” “The desire crawls out of the pages and into my mind” “The writing style is relaxed, even playful, and always fresh” “Steams up the pages – very sensual and erotic” “Simone Freier entertains her readers with a story of love, trust, respect and exploration” “Unexpectedly thoughtful and intensely passionate” “Simone Freier has an intoxicating way with words” “Fifty shades greyer in this deep look at sexual explorations” “Freier’s attention to detail in her books is awe-inspiring!” “I have enjoyed this whole series and don’t want it to end” “Fine writing from an author who knows her genre” “If you love erotica, then you’ll love this series” “Definitely a five-star series!”

WARNING! This work contains mature content, including graphic sexual descriptions and scenes, and is provided for adults only. The Experiences series contains scenes of psychological and physical submission, discipline, and medical fetish. The characters explore various fetishes, which evolve throughout the series. ALL CHARACTERS IN THE BOOK ARE 21 YEARS OLD OR OLDER, and all activities are consensual.

About The Author
Simone FreierAn adventuress and traveler, Simone is a sensual being who loves to read stories that excite her. She takes exception to authors who promote their works as ‘dirty’, ‘filthy’, or ‘smutty’: She believes that sex is wonderful in all of its incarnations, and doesn’t shy away from graphic descriptions of realistic sexual experiences, no matter how messy. Her writing is mainly in the ‘literary realism’ style – i.e., it is wild (even outrageous) … but could really happen to you! She values openness in relationships and demonstrates this through her characters.

Prior to becoming an author, Simone was a nurse. One of her pet peeves is reading erotica that gets simple anatomy wrong! She is continually bewildered by women who haven’t explored their own bodies. Another pet peeve is the mostly hung-up Victorian society prevalent in the U.S. and U.K., and she tries to do her part to change that by introducing people to new sexual and sensual experiences through her erotic writing. The activities in Simone’s books are quite realistic, as she has participated in most of these in ‘real life’, as surreal as it may seem.

Simone is currently completing the Experiences series, which will run an estimated 1,000,000 words! That is why she refers to it as an ‘epic’ romance, although each volume is intended to stand on its own, with a ‘happy for now’ ending. Experiences combine literary style and philosophical discussion by the characters with a graphic portrayal of sex in all of its kinks and fetishes. You may not like all of the things Simone’s characters do … but neither do they. Their exploration of new experiences will hopefully motivate some readers to explore their own sexuality to a greater extent.
Simone loves to hear from her readers, so feel free to contact her. In fact, she hopes you will feel ‘free’ sexually and spiritually, as well. Please follow her on social media and her blog. On her website, you may interact directly with the main characters in her books, including asking them questions in order to understand their perspectives in more depth.

You can sign up to her mailing list to learn about new releases, and take advantage of promotions. All readers on the mailing list will be sent an excerpt from each of her next novels, prior to publication.

Visit Simone’s website.
Friend Simone on her Facebook page.
Or, tweet Simone on Twitter!

Links:
Amazon

Promotional picture Domme Experience—Power Exchange and the Making of a Dominatrix (Experiences Book 8) by Simone Freier

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Review: “Ride the Storm (Cassandra Palmer #8)” by Karen Chance

Review:

A review by Amanda.

This review contains spoilers from the previous books in this series.

Ride the Storm picks up right where the last book ended. Cassie is still chasing after Pritkin’s soul with Rosier, hoping to counter the deadly curse that has been cast on the rugged war mage. Cassie’s court had just been attacked, and losses and injuries are everywhere. Betrayal from those she has been trying to help has affected Cassie’s usual good spirits. Even vampire master Mircea is struggling to recover from the recent events. Cassie is yanked back and forth in time, shifting from Arthurian times, where they have tracked down a young Pritkin and are awaiting the arrival of his soul, to present day at Dante’s, where the attacks keep coming from all sides. Exhausting both the Pythia power and her personal energy takes its toll, with devastating consequences. An unexpected revelation from a trusted person in her small circle of allies has Cassie (and readers) questioning everything that has happened since the events set in motion in the very first book.

This book is an absolute whirlwind of action and exposition. The first half of the story is nonstop action, with a few too many back-and-forth shifts, making it difficult to follow. No rest for our protagonist means no rest for readers. It feels as though the author tried to fit two books’ worth of plot into one book. Thankfully, the story slows down a bit and the pace evens out by the second half. Long-awaited answers to burning questions come to light, and the romantic entanglement that Cassie has found herself in might finally be unraveling. While some long-standing issues get wrapped up, others, frustratingly, do not. Cassie heroically maintains her snarky and irreverent sense of humor despite the adversity. There are a couple of steamy sex scenes, although these are somewhat mild compared to previous books. I, for one, am looking forward to the next book with the great hope that we won’t be strung along for too much longer (at least in certain areas). While the convolution of the first half of this book did affect my overall rating, the second half still makes it worth reading.

If you would like to start this series from the beginning, book one is Touch the Dark. Karen Chance also has a crossover series, featuring characters we know and love (or hate), and exciting new ones. The first book is Midnight’s Daughter.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Chain Saw Confidential” by Gunnar Hansen

A review by Brit.

In the eyes of many horror fans, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the greatest movies within the genre. It was released in 1974 and was quickly renowned for its craftsmanship and surprisingly bloodless violence. It was hated as much as it was loved. And in the form of Chain Saw Confidential, the one taking on the telling of the film’s origin story (and the reckoning of its legacy) is Gunnar Hansen. Who better than Leatherface himself to take on this muddy tale of dead chickens, melted film prints and runaway eight hour makeup chair sessions?

This book is largely an oral history of the making of Massacre, from the origins in the head of cigar-chomping director Tobe Hooper to the placement of the film in the Museum of Modern Art (and the scathing reviews that choice inspired). Helpfully, the story is also organized in the order of the actual movie’s plot. Hansen’s perspective is somewhat limited due to his starring role in the film. But he interviews cast and crew members extensively, openly admitting when details are inconsistent or if something has been completely forgotten. Add in thoughts about the movie from figures like John Landis (director of An American Werewolf in London) and it’s a very fun ride.

There are two reasons why I did not give this book five stars. The first is that readers who are inherently interested in horror and/or the filmmaking process itself will have a much better experience reading this book than those who are not. It’s undeniable. I’m a huge fan of Massacre, so naturally I enjoyed hearing about the nitty-gritty details about chicken bones and poor set insulation.The average reader may not care to hear about the post-production money distribution web of confusion that happened after the movie took off.

The second reason is that some readers may find Hansen’s treatise on horror at the end of the book tiring. It’s understandable that he has strong feelings on horror being connected to violence in American culture. But it’s 2017, and this debate now largely takes place only in academic and highly political circles. Even if you have no plans to watch Massacre for yourself, this book is still a good testament to the power of research and desire to tell the “real story” of how a legendary phenomenon came to be. Hansen writes in a wry voice that often reminded me of my grandfather. He’s exactly the kind of storyteller to take on this twisted, fun story.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “Silence Fallen” by Patricia Briggs

Review of Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

A review by Niraja.

After a nearly fatal accident, Mercy finds herself kidnapped by a powerful vampire who sought to use her in a plot against the Tri-cities.  Mercy escapes in her coyote form, only to discover she is alone in Europe without money, clothing, or a passport. Unable to rely on her mate or pack bonds to contact Adam and the pack, Mercy must use her wits to discover who she can trust as allies and who are the enemies she must fight, while simultaneously trying to prevent outright war between vampires and werewolves.  As if that wasn’t enough to handle, ghosts stir and an old power awakens in the heart of Prague…

Silence Fallen is the 11th book in the Mercedes Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.  I awaited it’s release with baited breath and am pleased to report I was not disappointed.  Yet again, Patty delivered​ an exciting plot and well developed believable characters that we love (or love to hate).

Mercy shines as our heroine as she uses her wit and resourcefulness to get herself out of, and back into, sticky situations.  True to form Mercedes faces her situation with inner strength and determination.  As a result she is both impressing and bewildering werewolves and vampires alike as they find her more than what she appears to be.  Once again Patty weaves elements from past books into Silence Fallen.  I appreciate this element of her writing because not only does this strengthen the continuity of her stories, it also makes her characters feel real.  As in her other books, Silence fallen had moments where I was cheering the characters on, feeling sympathy, getting anxious, laughing out loud, and happily feeling warm and content.  

This book differs from previous books in the series as it has several chapters from Adam’s point of view as he struggles with factors surrounding Mercy’s kidnapping and as he plots to recover her.  I enjoyed these chapters immensely as they not only grant insight to Adam’s emotions and thought processes but also show some of our favorite supporting characters from a different perspective.  Patty also throws in a small surprise twist at the end to which there are cleverly subtle clues, discoverable in hindsight (and a thorough reread of certain scenes).

Overall the book felt comfortingly familiar and yet held refreshing changes.  I was engaged in the story and felt connected to the characters.  If you are a fan of the Mercy Thompson series, Silence Fallen will not disappoint.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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